The sell-out archive of 354 lots spanning 40 years of scripts, letters and photos was consigned for sale by the family of the late Maureen Baker-Munton, du Maurier’s friend and personal assistant to her husband, Lieutenant General Frederick ‘Boy’ Browning.
With estimates set at conservative levels, the collection far outpaced printed hopes to total just over £116,000 at the April 27 white-glove sale.
Among the highlights was du Maurier’s typewriter, an Olympia SM4 that sold for £5000 to a private collector via thesaleroom.com against a £80-120 estimate. The author's first typewriter, an American Oliver Model 11, is held at the Smuggler's Museum in Cornwall, and she is also know to have used an Underwood Standard and a top-of-the-range Olivetti. The Olympia was her last machine.
An autograph manuscript, Rebecca, A Play in Three Acts, a handwritten adaptation of the 1938 book Rebecca into dramatic form sold for £6200 (estimate £200-400) while £4200 (estimate £400-600) was bid for the manuscript of an unpublished poem from the 1920s, Song of the Happy Prostitute, that had been found in the back of a photo frame.
Du Maurier spent much of her life in Cornwall, where most of her works are set. As her fame increased, she became more reclusive and rarely gave interviews.
A signed black and white photograph of du Maurier, signed and inscribed Fernande with all my love, sold at £1250 (estimate £40-60). Fernande Yvon was du Maurier’s school mistress with whom she is thought to have had a relationship.
Roddy Lloyd, managing director of Rowley’s, said: “It was a five-hour marathon auction. We had interest from academic collections and private collectors as far afield as Qatar and the US, although many items will return to Cornwall.”